We have reached the last eight in this year’s FIFA World Cup. There have been 56 matches so far producing drama aplenty from all 32 teams. Yet here we are, as eight teams remain with hopes of being crowned world champions.
As we approach the quarterfinal ties, here are the power rankings of the eight sides left in Qatar.
We are at the stage of the competition where there are truly no weak teams left. It is incredible to think that the finalists from four years ago are last in this ranking. Yet, with the quality of the teams left, someone has to be bottom.
After squeaking past Japan on penalties, they next have to tackle Brazil, who many still consider to be the tournament favourites. It is remarkable what Croatia has managed between the last World Cup and this one. With that said, however, they are in for their toughest task yet. They are in for quite the challenge against the record world champions.
Here is a team that has flown under the radar throughout the tournament. Thrice losing finalists in World Cups past, Netherlands is one of four teams left still unbeaten. They might not always be the best watch at times, yet they are an incredibly organized side, and very efficient in front of goal.
Relatively unchallenged throughout their first four matches, the step up in opposition will be evident against Copa America holders Argentina. De Oranje is in for a fight this time, where they will need to be at their very best.
Becoming just the fourth African country to reach this point in a World Cup finals, Morocco has conceded the least number of goals so far. In fact, the only goal that has been scored against them came off the foot of one of their very own. To be through 390 minutes plus a penalty shootout and conceding once is an incredible feat given the opponents they have had to go through.
Up next for the Atlas Lions is a Portuguese team who ran rampant in their round of 16 game. It will surely be a very similar game to Morocco’s last game against Portugal’s Iberian rivals Spain. Whether the Moroccans can perform another defensive masterclass remains to be seen. One thing is for certain; Portugal will have done their homework.
The Three Lions have scored goal after goal in Qatar, with their dozen goals across four games being the most of the teams left. It is the third time that England has gotten to double digits in goals at a World Cup. In both of their previous occasions, they reached the semifinals at least.
The desire will be the keep that stat going, though they will have to get past the reigning champions France, who have not been too shabby themselves. In what is possibly the tie of the round, England has their work cut out for them. It is the only quarterfinal matchup in this year’s edition to be played between former winners, promising for an exciting tie.
Fernando Santos’ Portugal was at their sparkling best against Switzerland on Monday, finding the back of the net six times during their 6-1 blowout. Along with England, the 12 goals scored by Os Navegadores are the most at the tournament. Not bad for a team who fell at the round of 16 four years ago.
Next up is a defensively astute Morocco team. This will be a serious test for Portugal, who have largely had it their own way in Qatar up until this point. Focus will be key, as they already would know that their African opposition is a tough nut to crack. A true test of their mettle lies ahead.
It seems like Argentina has shaken off their woes of their shock opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia. In sooth, it feels like yonks ago since La Albiceleste were stunned by two quick-fire second half strikes to end their lengthy unbeaten run. Since that defeat, they have looked like the Argentina side everyone talked about ahead of the tournament.
Wins over Mexico, Poland and more recently Australia now pits Lionel Scaloni’s men against the Dutch. Seeing that the pair have had some memorable showdowns in the past, this sets the stage for a mouth-watering clash between two footballing juggernauts. This promises to be a fascinating match.
Les Bleus seem not to have missed a beat in Qatar. There were many questions pre-tournament regarding the loss of several star players. Yet so far, Didier Deschamps’ French side has barely shown any weakness. They looked comfortable in Sunday’s success over Poland.
Free-scoring England is the next test in France’s pursuit to become the first team to defend the World Cup title since Brazil did so back in 1962. They are three games away from achieving that, but first they must get the better of a tricky English team. If there is one side who is up for that task, it is definitely Les Bleus.
A Seleção ripped Korea Republic apart at will in the first half of their round of 16 meeting, scoring four times. Watching them at their very best gives people reason to fear. Tite’s Brazil is showing why they were, and still are, the favourites to go all the way.
Croatia is the next team standing in the CONMEBOL team’s way. They have proven to be a challenge to break down, keeping two clean sheets thus far. Yet with the attacking flair Brazil possesses, the Croats will need to play their cards spot on. Keeping the Brazilians off the scoresheet is not for everyone. As the heavy favourites in this clash, A Seleção has the ability to tear their opponents apart at will, so Croatia better be weary.